But when it comes to classes, is it possible that less is actually more? I mean, how many character classes becomes too much? I'm a little torn.
On the one hand, if I come across a really nice class with a good skill set and progression options, I'm definitely all in. It's really, really hard to hate something that's cool on the fantastical face of it. And who can blame me? But the problem with some class-based systems is that the only way to add a new skill set is to introduce a new class; and let's face it, some new classes come across as bloated, redundant, and unnecessary...
Barbarians? As a class?* They're just fighters from a primitive, probably northern culture, complete with loincloths and outdoor survival skills. Can't we just roll up a fighter and embellish the backstory? Gygax, for all I loved Unearthed Arcana, built an overwrought class around his apparently fawning love of Conan. Of course, I have a fawning love of rules-lite games, so others may disagree. But do we really need to build a whole new class around the ability to take natural cover or climb trees? Seriously, do we?
Or a class built around the lance (cavaliers) or acrobatics (the thief-acrobat)?
All of the above feel more like backstories to me. Barbarians and cavaliers can exploit Unearthed Arcana's weapon specialization rules and leave the rest to the player and their negotiated character concept. Can Borg climb that tree? Why not? He grew up in the Northern Wood, after all. Just roll under dexterity to make it happen. Ditto for cavaliers and lances. Or charging on horseback, for that matter. And really, how did thieves perform acrobatically before 1985? Hint: they were quite acrobatic since 1975!
Feel free to disagree. Trust me, I see both sides of the coin. Barbarians and cavaliers behave differently in the game's implied setting. But is something lost when there's increasingly less opportunity to proceed from a character's backstory? And does a game suffer when each new class is just an excuse to introduce a few new skills when said system already got along fine without them? It's definitely a "classy" debate for the ages...
*Yeah, yeah, Pits & Perils has a barbarian class, and I still have reservations!